It’s been hard to find time for anime or blogging lately but I managed to finish the 52 episodes of Go Lion from 1981. Although it isn’t the best that 80’s anime has to offer I did enjoy it. I would only recommend it to people who I know enjoy super robot shows of the late 70’s and early 80’s. But if that’s your thing then don’t miss Go Lion.
Five Earth men are returning from a long journey in space and are horrified to see Earth devastated by nuclear war. They don’t have long to plan their next move as a slave ship from the Galra Empire captures them. After escaping the cruel planet Galra the heroes crash land on Altea. Altea has been shattered by Galra attacks to such an extent that the Galra Empire has left it to rot without establishing their presence there. The five Earth men, Akira Kogane, Takashi Shirogane, Isamu Kurogane, Tsuyoshi Seidou and Hiroshi Suzuishi meet Princess Fala and her strategist Raible hiding out in the ruins of Castle Gradam. They agree to be Altea’s heroes and start using five immense mechanical lions that have been slumbering underground for longer than anyone can remember. Those five lions can combine to form the powerful robot Go Lion.
A large part of the show follows a time-honored super robot formula of fending off attacks from the alien empire. Eventually, the show changes gears a bit and the Go Lion team starts visiting other planets defeated by Galra and encouraging them to fight the Galra Empire. Eventually they manage to create an alliance and with its support (and a captured super cannon from the Galrans) they mount an attack on planet Galra and bring the empire down.
Some aspects of the show are simplistic (goofy dancing mice, the Galrans missing obvious tactics against the Go Lion team) while others are quite mature. Some examples of the mature aspects are both Takashi and Ryou Shirogane tragically losing their lives fighting the Galra Empire (and Princess Amue’s burgeoning love affair with Ryoe being dashed apart) and the amount of graphic violence that the show contains.
Long, long ago Go Lion was a robot that wandered space with no pilots. It sought fierce opponents to battle to the death. When it challenged the Goddess of Space Go Lion was punished by being split into 5 lions and sealed away on planet Altea. Every episode begins with the legend of Go Lion yet nothing is done with this legend in the show. No one speaks of Go Lion “awakening”. It’s clear that the characters know the legend yet it doesn’t influence their thinking. This is a great opportunity that was missed by the show’s writers.
Go Lion stands out among super robot shows. Rather than Earth, the story takes place on planet Altea. The show has a very western influence. Both Galra and Altea have cultures modeled on western Europe in the middle ages (although with space age technology). It’s no wonder Go Lion was selected for U.S. television. The characters don’t eat Japanese food or wear non-western clothes. Almost no elements of Japanese culture enter into Go Lion. That might be part of why Go Lion isn’t often remembered in Japan.
One weakness of the show was its soundtrack. The songs were too mellow and dull and used far too much during action scenes. A better soundtrack would have been a big asset to the show.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Go Lion’s making it to American airwaves as Voltron Defender of the Universe. Voltron was heavily edited but in a way I can sort of understand. Go Lion was so violent that there was simply no way it could have been allowed to air in the U.S. in the 80’s. Still the amount of editing that was performed on it made it into such a different show it’s almost unrecognizable.
Still, Go Lion was worth my time watching through it and I hope you’re able to enjoy it too.